Whooping cough cases 'remain high'

SACRAMENTO - State health officials this week warned that the number of whooping cough cases in 2011 continues to be above both the 2009 baseline levels and the numbers seen by this time last year.Dr. Howard Backer, interim director of the California Department of Public Health, encouraged parents to ensure that their child's immunizations are up-to-date in compliance with a new state law that is slated to go into effect July 1. "In 2010, California experienced a record high number of pertussis (whooping cough) illnesses, including 10 infant deaths," said Backer. "While it is too early to know if this year will reach the same high levels of this debilitating disease, California is currently experiencing more cases than would be typically expected, but fortunately no fatalities." Backer called on parents of children in grades 7-12 to ensure that they comply with AB 354, which requires documentation of a child's pertussis booster shot prior to school entry. More than 1 million students statewide still need to be vaccinated before the fall semester. West Middle School in Downey hosted a pertussis vaccination clinic Wednesday, where more than 400 students received the immunization. "Vaccination, including critical booster shots, is the best defense against pertussis," added Backer. "Parents of seventh to twelfth graders must ensure that their children receive the necessary booster shot to avoid a delay in having their children start classes in the fall semester." The vaccination series for whooping cough can begin at the age of six weeks. Infants, however, are not adequately protected by vaccination until the initial series of three shots is complete. For new mothers and anyone in close contact with infants, the state health department encourages a "cocooning strategy," where people in close contact are vaccinated to protect the not-fully-immunized infant. Anyone who might be coming into contact with newborns and young infants should ensure that their immunizations are up-to-date.

********** Published: June 16, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 9